Hollywood star Charlie Sheen has confirmed he is living with HIV in a US television interview.
“I am here to admit that I am HIV positive,” he said.
It bring to an end days of intense media speculation. The former star of sitcom Two And A Half Men is appearing on NBC’s Today show.
Sheen revealed to Matt Lauer he had paid “enough to take it into the millions” to keep people from going public about his illness.
“I have to put a stop to this onslaught this barrage of attacks and of sub truths,” he said, adding he was diagnosed four years ago.
He said when he revealed his HIV status to friends “the truth became treason”, leading to “blackmail and extortion and a circle of deceit”.
“I trusted them, they were in my inner circle and thought they could be helpful. My trust turned to their treason,” he said, adding a prostitute took a picture of his medication and threatened to sell it to newspapers.
“I think I release myself from this prison today,” he said.
He admitted that his use of drink and drugs was a “bad decision” but said it was “impossible” that he would have passed HIV on to anyone else.
The actor said he does not know he he contracted the virus but stressed he does not feel any stigma attached to the illness.
Speaking about the time prior to his diagnosis, he said: “It started with a series of cluster headaches and sweating – I was hospitalised I thought I had a brain tumour – after tests they said this was the situation. It’s a hard three letters to absorb.”
Sheen said his “personal disbelief and shame and anger” at the diagnosis “led to a descent into substance abuse and fathomless drinking”.
But now he feels he has “the responsibility to better myself and help a lot of other people. With what we’re doing today, others may come up and say thanks Charlie, thanks for kicking the door open”.
The actor rose to fame in the 80s with hit films including Platoon and Wall Street and, in 2011, was the highest-paid actor on TV thanks to his sitcom role.
He has frequently struggled with drink and drug abuse.
The star, who played a hedonistic bachelor in Two And A Half Men, was fired from the show in 2011 after a downward spiral in his personal life that was often played out in public.
Production had been suspended after he entered rehabilitation for reported drug and alcohol abuse.
The actor – the youngest son of West Wing star Martin Sheen and brother of actor Emilio Estevez – has also had a troubled personal life and has been married three times.
He first marriage was to Donna Peele in 1995 but they split up after a year. His second marriage was to former Bond girl Denise Richards, with whom he has two daughters. They divorced in 2006 and he married Brooke Mueller, with whom he has twin sons.
He was then due to marry adult film star Scottine Ross, but the wedding was called off.